John

The end of Ramadan, Lebaran, asking for forgiveness

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John 1

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:29–34 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Last night, for the first time in my life, I witnessed the Muslim night of Lebaran. Here is a brief description taken from an expat website:

“At the end of the month of Ramadhan and its special religious observance is the Eid holiday, called Idul Fitri or Lebaran in Indonesia. In Indonesia, this is the time when Muslims visit their family and friends to ask for forgiveness for any wrongs they have committed in the previous year. They express this wish in the phrase “Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin” which means “forgive me from the bottom of my heart/soul for my wrongdoings in the past year”. A traditional Arabic (Muslim) greeting for the Eid celebrations is also commonly used in Indonesia “Minal Aidin Wal Fa Idzin“, which is expressed upon meeting friends and family during the festive days. Traditional foods are consumed, family and friends gather to ask forgiveness and exchange greetings.”

On this night of “Lebaran” the Muslims take time to ask forgiveness for their sins and to pray for power to live faithfully in the coming year. We typically hear the Muslim prayer calls over the loudspeakers four to five times a day, they are relatively short as they call the faithful to prayer. Last night we heard the prayer calls over the loudspeakers continually from 8:00PM to 12:00 midnight. As we stood on our deck we could hear six to eight different mosques crying out, in Arabic, for forgiveness. These calls were mixed with intermittent fireworks of celebration.

As I heard these continual calls for forgiveness, I prayed that these dear people would realize that the only forgiveness of their sin is through Jesus Christ. I cannot fault their sincerity and commitment to their beliefs, but I weep for their efforts of finding forgiveness apart from the only Savior who alone came as the Lamb of God to take away our sin. The difference is that in their teaching, Mohammed and Jesus were prophets; in our Bible we learn that Jesus was God before He came, took on human form but never set aside His deity, prophesied as a prophet and then proved Himself to be the very Son of God, was crucified to bear our judgment and rose from the dead to give us all eternal hope.

Join with us in prayer that our Muslim friends who cried out last night for forgiveness of sin would realize that their system is impotent to remove the sins they so sincerely cry out to have forgiven. Pray that their eyes will be opened to see Jesus, whom John the Apostle and John the Baptist proclaimed was the Son of God who alone can take away our sins.

 

For the first time yesterday, I had a Christian taxi driver. It was a blessing to fellowship with this man as we came home. I also met a man who is trying to get Ravi Zacharias to come to Indonesia. We exchanged information to see if Ravi coming here could be a reality.

This Friday and Saturday I will be bringing the messages at a singles retreat here in Jakarta. Pray for my preparation and for God to use His word to change lives and to shape them into His image.

 Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Christ Lifted Up Draws People to Himself – John 12:32

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Twice in the book of John we have recorded Christ talking about being lifted up on a cross. Both references come from the event in Numbers 21 when the people lost confidence in God, complained and complained some more griping against Moses and against God.  In judgment, God sent deadly serpents through the camp and many were bitten and died.  The people repented of their sin and God told Moses to have a brass serpent made and lifted up on a pole; whoever would look at this brass serpent would live.

In this sermon, Pastor Steve ties these events together as Nicodemus would have understood them and then points us all to the Cross of Christ as the place to look in faith.  (This would be a good message to have a friend listen to.)

A Community of Footwashers – John 13

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I am in California right now enjoying the Shepherds Conference at Grace Community Church. There are about 3500 pastors from all 50 states and from 60 different countries. There are men here who are not pastors but most of them are serving their church in some capacity. The preaching is amazing but the worship is like none other. Can you imagine a full orchestra, a choir of 300 men, and then 3500 in the audience together singing praise to God? These are powerful and memorable moments.

We heard four sermons yesterday, all of them had to do with the building of the church of Jesus Christ. One message was taken from the time when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. They were arguing who amongst them would be the greatest in the kingdom. None of them would take the job of the household slave, so Jesus takes off his robe, puts on the towel, takes the water basin and rag and begins to wash the feet of these men who were too proud to do this. The disciples were stunned into silence, except for Peter. He blurts out and tells the Lord that he is not going to wash his feet! Jesus turns the lesson into one of salvation and says, “If I do not wash your feet you will have no part in my kingdom.”

When no one else was willing to serve, Jesus served. When one complained, Jesus served. There was nothing to be gained by Jesus washing their feet and if no one did this then they would have eaten with hot, dusty, dirty feet. What things around us need to be done but we think those things below us? What things around us need to be done but we assume someone else will do it? What things around us need to be done but if no one does it it just won’t get done? Yet, if Jesus had not demonstrated humble servanthood here in this act, which needed to be done, what a great lesson we would have lost.

We need to adopt a basin theology. There were two basins in the New Testament. From this basin Jesus served his disciples and proved to them his power to cleanse and to save. Pilate had a basin too, from his basin he washed his hands from the guilt of crucifying Jesus. One basin served others, the other basin rejected the Savior and selfishly served Pilate. I want to use the basin to serve others leading them to Christ and salvation in His cleansing.48BE4581-E263-4D43-8240-C4B8A4F3958D

The Harvest is Ready

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Ready to harvest
John 4
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
Though it wasn’t yet harvest season when Jesus told His disciples these words, for the crops were not yet ready to harvest, but as the disciples looked up, the men of Samaria were coming out in mass to hear the message of Christ.  The woman at the well had left her water pot to go tell the people of the city to come meet the Man who told her all things she had ever done.  “Must this not be the Christ?” she shouted.  As a result, the men of the city came out to meet this man who had so changed the worst woman in town.   As they were walking out to meet this “Man,” Jesus told His disciples, “Look, the harvest is plenteous.”
As I am now home from Asia, I can tell you, “Look, the harvest is plenteous.” People, people everywhere.  In the mid 1900’s there was a strong mission’s movement into the Philippines. Men who had been there in the war went go back as missionaries.  As a result, there is a strong gospel presence in the Philippines.  Yet, just like in the USA, there are millions still lost.
In Bangkok, Buddhism is strong.  I will show you more on Sunday but you cannot go around town without noticing mini-temples in front of houses and businesses.  These mini temples, it is believed, is where the evil spirits live thus freeing up the building behind it from the evil spirits living there.  People stop and light incense, leave bottles of red pop, and place figurines on these mini-temples.  How lost they are in this false belief.  Yet, Buddhism is everywhere.  The Christian churches are by-and-large, very small and far in-between.  Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers into Thailand as He did into the Philippines.

Be not doubting, like Thomas

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John 20

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

How would you like to be remembered as “doubting Thomas”?  He missed the first appearance of the Lord to the disciples.  We don’t know why, he just wasn’t there.  Furthermore, despite the testimony of the others who did see the risen Jesus, Thomas boldly proclaimed that unless he put his own fingers into the holes in Christ’s hands and thrust his own hand into the wound in the Savior’s side, he wasn’t going to believe the Christ was alive.

John 20:24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

 

Thomas really did dig himself a hole of doubt and unbelief.  I cannot be too tough on poor Thomas though for I and each of us have been in the same place.  We were challenged to take a step of faith by someone who had already taken that step and found God faithful.  We resisted just not believing that the God who carried them would carry us.  We are really bad about this.  Perhaps we could call each other with the prefix “doubting” before our names.

 

The beauty of this transaction between the risen Lord Jesus and Thomas is this, in spite of Thomas’ doubting heart, Jesus appeared and gave Thomas the exact opportunity that he was demanding.  At that, Thomas believed.  When we doubt, the Lord does not turn away from us.  In love for us our Savior confirms His ability in a given situation and reaches beyond our doubt.

 

I don’t think Thomas ever doubted again.

 

Then Jesus said this to Thomas and also to us: ““Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  We are those who not having seen Jesus have believed.  Jesus said that we are blessed, that is, He blesses us with greater faith when we believe.  What is the Lord trying to get you to do for Him today and you are having a doubt fest?  What is keeping you back from doing what God wants you to do?  Are you expecting a personal visit from Christ or can you simply step out by faith knowing that He who has saved you eternally is quite capable of leading you in this temporary life?

 

Just a reminder, Steven and I have our concert with the Glee Club and the Voices of Hope choir this Sunday at 3:00.  Some of you have bought tickets already while others have expressed interest but haven’t gotten tickets yet.  Send me a note letting me know how many you want.  The theme of this concert is hope for people touched by cancer.  If you know anyone who has been touched by cancer we have a grant for free tickets for them.  Please let me know if you have someone interested in a free cancer survivor ticket.

 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

 

The Resurrection of Jesus Changes Everything

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John 20:19–21

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

The risen Christ continues to meet His followers and by doing so breathes hope into their lives. We have to notice the condition of the disciples here three days after the crucifixion: they were terrified! They were hiding in an upper room with the doors locked thinking that the Jews who killed Jesus were after them. And why would they think otherwise? From the arrest of Christ in the Garden they all fled in fear and were now gathered going over the details hardly believing all that had taken place. How could they make sense of any of this? One week earlier Jesus had rode the donkey into Jerusalem to the praise of the crowds. Four days earlier they disciples had observed the Passover with Jesus in full confidence of His plans for their lives. All of that now seemed like a distant shadow.

But then Jesus appeared! The door did not open, the wall did not break through; He just appeared. Not only did Jesus appear but also He talked to them immediately bringing their troubled hearts to peace. Then to prove that He was not just a ghost, Jesus called them to see and to touch His wounded hands and side. Oh what a difference Jesus makes in any situation. These men and women who were in total fear suddenly were at peace and were made glad. Nothing short of a resurrected Savior could bring such a change in hearts and lives of a fearful bunch. Suddenly their conversations about their assumed great loss was forgotten and a whole new life began to emerge. A new spirit filled the room when Jesus entered.

The risen Christ still changes the room when He enters. Today we hold Him outside by our fear and our unbelief. But when we bring Him in and seek His careful guidance then His Spirit enters and the whole atmosphere in the room changes. I have witnessed this in church meetings, in deacon meetings, in hospital rooms, in family meetings, and in counseling sessions. When we bring Jesus in, the resurrected Savior brings hope and peace that nothing else even comes close to bringing. Share with the disciples in the joy of the risen Jesus.

This Sunday Caleb and Lindsey will be with un the morning service. They are leaving for Thailand on Tuesday and will be gone for a year. We will be taking a special offering to help them in this mission endeavor. Pray about what God would have you to give to help to meet their needs. This is a huge step of faith for Caleb and Lindsay and we can be a wonderful encouragement to them.

Tonight is our regular schedule of youth group, Kids4Truth, and adult prayer and Bible study. See you then.

Last night I was able to give the gospel to two men. Pray for their hearts to open to Christ.

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

Oh what a wonderful Resurrection Jesus brought

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John 20:11–18

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb.

12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

It is nearly impossible for us to imagine this exchange between the risen Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Overcome with sorrow, Mary goes early to the tomb to grieve alone. Many of us have returned to the gravesite of a loved one just to be near them, to grieve privately, to air our sorrows. Mary did not go to the tomb expecting it to be empty, she came to spend a little more time with the One who loved her soul and saved her from her from her sin. But when she arrived the tomb stone was rolled back and the tomb was empty. Her grief increased thinking that someone had stolen the body of her Lord and so she begged the “gardener” for information.

We have been there, at some level. We have been at the funeral of a loved one struggling with why they had to die. The brutality of the death of Jesus, the senseless aggression to end His life would have exacerbated Mary’s grief. She just wanted to be near Him one more time.

Thus it is nearly impossible to fully understand her feelings. She speaks to a man pleading with him to tell her where the body is and the man calls her name, “Mary.” She knew that voice. She had heard it many times before. But she did not recognize the Man. Her Lord was beaten beyond recognition. His body was destroyed by the guards and the cross. This man was whole. He was in clean clothes. He had no indication of the horrific beating Jesus had endured just three days earlier. But she knew the voice was the most tender voice she had ever heard and as she looked up and looked into His eyes, she knew it was Jesus.

What would you have done? She embraced Jesus with tears of joy and then she ran and told the disciples that she had seen Him.   She became a strong witness of the Savior, and rightfully so, for she knew what she saw and heard. What a wonderful moment Mary had that day. John recorded this event for us to share in that moment and to enjoy it ourselves. Our Jesus lives! Our Jesus conquered both sin and death. Sin could not kill Him and the grave could not hold Him. Men could not restrain Him and the beating did not weaken Him. Jesus rose strong and triumphant over all of the effects of sin defeating Satan as predicted in Genesis 3. The Bible is true. God is God and salvation from sin was complete. Hallelujah! What a Savior.

We had a glorious Resurrection Sunday at Grace for Life. I am so thankful for all who participated to make that day one that exalted the resurrected Savior.   We sang of Jesus, we had readings as to His death and resurrection, we praised Him at the Lord’s Table and at the breakfast table. Thank you for coming to share in this great day with us and for taking part.

The tomb is empty,
He is Risen.

PS